Prior shared success predicts victory in team competitions, Nature Human Behaviour
Debate over the impact of team composition on the outcome of a contest has attracted sports enthusiasts and sports scientists for years. A commonly held belief regarding team success is the superstar effect; that is, including more talent improves the performance of a team1. However, studies of team sports have suggested that previous relations and shared experiences among team members improve the mutual understanding of individual habits, techniques and abilities and therefore enhance team coordination and strategy. We explored the impact of within-team relationships on the outcome of competition between sports teams. Relations among teammates consist of two aspects: qualitative and quantitative. While quantitative aspects measure the number of times two teammates collaborated, qualitative aspects focus on ‘prior shared success’; that is, whether teamwork succeeded or failed. We examined the association between qualitative team interactions and the probability of winning using historical records from professional sports—basketball in the National Basketball Association, football in the English Premier League, cricket in the Indian Premier League and baseball in Major League Baseball—and the multiplayer online battle game Defense of the Ancients 2. Our results show that prior shared success between team members significantly improves the odds of the team winning in all sports beyond the talents of individuals.